In the context of hybrid work, where in-person interactions are limited, it becomes crucial for managers to bridge the communication gap and understand their team members' sentiments. According to a Gallup report, only 34% of employees were engaged in the workplace in 2022, highlighting the need for proactive measures, and this is where a pulse survey comes into play.
Ever get the feeling that your team is constantly evolving, and waiting until the end of the year for the annual employee survey just takes too long to gather their insights? Managers are eager to stay in tune with the latest trends among employees. How can we access their pulse faster? Well, pulse surveys are born for this purpose.
In this article, we will walk you through everything you need about pulse surveys, from meticulous planning to insightful analysis of the survey results. With our guide, you will gain the knowledge and tools necessary to leverage pulse surveys effectively, fostering a more engaged and productive team environment.
What is a pulse survey?
A pulse survey is a quick, frequent, and streamlined set of questions, making them easy for your team members to answer. It provides an opportunity to "take the pulse" of the team and gain a snapshot of their views on specific topics.
Pulse surveys can be a helpful tool in certain situations, providing straightforward and prompt feedback. While elaborate and complex surveys still have their role in extensive research, pulse surveys offer a more efficient way to obtain immediate insights about what happens within the team and how they feel.
With their concise structure, pulse surveys aim to gather valuable information about work experience, satisfaction levels, engagement, communication, relationships, and other relevant factors. From the data collected, you can quickly gain insights into the team's well-being and pinpoint any pressing issues or areas requiring real improvement.
Distinguish between the pulse survey and employee engagement survey
Pulse surveys and employee engagement surveys serve different purposes in shaping employee engagement strategies. While traditional annual surveys are still used by many organizations to offer a comprehensive view of engagement over a longer timeframe, pulse surveys provide a more agile and actionable approach. Pulse surveys can be conducted by managers to hear from their team members.
In the table below, let's explore the differences between pulse surveys and employee engagement surveys in several aspects, including frequency, length, time to conduct, and pre-survey actions.
Don't wait for months until the company's annual survey to gain feedback from your team. By conducting pulse surveys, you can regularly check in with your team and make necessary adjustments in a timely manner. This approach helps to establish you as an effective team leader and ensures that your team's satisfaction rate remains high during performance reviews.
Let's take an example of pulse survey cadence that a manager can apply:
Typically, the annual employee engagement survey often takes place at the end of Q3 or the beginning of Q4 to collect data and insights for planning purposes for the upcoming year. This comprehensive survey assesses various aspects of employee engagement, satisfaction, organizational culture, and other relevant factors. It provides a broad view of the overall employee experience and acts as a planning and strategic tool.
After implementing new strategies or initiatives, you might need to conduct a quarterly pulse survey (Q1) to check if they are well-received and effective within your team. This survey can focus on gathering feedback on the fit, impact, and satisfaction levels related to the implemented changes.
In Q2, the focus can shift towards team productivity and employee well-being. It can include questions about workload, work-life balance, support systems, and overall team dynamics. The insights gathered from this survey can help identify areas for improvement and enhance team performance for the second half of the year.
Benefits of a pulse survey
Effective management hinges on understanding and addressing your team's needs, sentiments, and engagement. That is why you need access to real-time insights and feedback as a manager.
Pulse surveys help managers make data-driven decisions, timely address concerns, and increase engagement within a team. Let's delve into each key advantage of pulse surveys:
Gather Real-Time Feedback
One of the remarkable advantages of pulse surveys is their capability to collect real-time and frequent feedback. This means you can capture insights on an ongoing basis, allowing you to stay in tune with your team's experiences.
By regularly engaging in this feedback loop, you gain the ability to identify emerging issues, monitor changes in employee satisfaction, and obtain a comprehensive understanding of your team's health.
Make Data-Driven Decision
Making pulse surveys provides valuable quantitative and qualitative data that can be leveraged for data-driven decision-making. By analyzing the survey results, you can identify and prioritize areas that require attention, allocate resources effectively, and develop targeted strategies to address specific concerns.
For example, if survey data shows 85% of your employees favor messaging over face-to-face communication, you can take steps to adjust communication methods. Consider switching daily standup meetings to progress updates on Slack and limiting team meetings to only the most important ones.
Increase Employee Engagement
Pulse surveys play a pivotal role in measuring and boosting employee engagement levels. By actively seeking input from your team members, you demonstrate their opinions and voices are valued. This, in turn, fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among employees, as they feel that their feedback is being heard and acted upon.
The transparent and inclusive nature of pulse surveys cultivates a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, ultimately leading to higher levels of engagement and satisfaction within your team.
How to start creating a pulse survey
Creating an effective pulse survey that yields meaningful results requires careful planning and thoughtful execution.
Start with survey objectives
When you're determining the objectives for your pulse survey, it's essential to focus on the specific goals and challenges you want to tackle. This will help you design survey questions that directly address those objectives and collect valuable data to drive meaningful improvements. Here are some steps to help you identify your objectives:
- Assess your team's needs or current challenges. Start by assessing the current state of your team. Identify any areas where you need more insights, including various aspects such as employee engagement, communication, collaboration, work satisfaction, or well-being.
- Prioritize objectives and determine the specific information. Prioritize one key area and the detailed information based on its importance and relevance you want to gather from your team. Are you looking for feedback on a recent change or initiative? Do you want to measure employee engagement levels? Are you interested in understanding the team's perceptions of communication effectiveness? Clearly define the most critical areas and the information you seek to obtain.
- Make objectives measurable. Make your objectives measurable to track progress and assess the impact of the pulse survey. To evaluate the survey outcomes, use quantitative metrics such as satisfaction ratings or engagement scores.
Examples of clear objectives for a pulse survey include (but are not limited to):
- Employee engagement and well-being: assess employee engagement and overall well-being such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, stress levels, and overall happiness at work.
- Communication: gather feedback on communication channels, methods, and clarity of the information to identify gaps or areas where communication can be enhanced for better collaboration and understanding within the team.
- Job satisfaction and motivation: measure team members' satisfaction with their roles, responsibilities, and working conditions. Understand their motivation levels and identify factors that contribute to or hinder job satisfaction and motivation.
- Training and development: identify the specific skills and knowledge gaps. It helps determine team members' training and development needs, ensuring they have the necessary resources and support for growth and success.
- Feedback on specific initiatives or projects: evaluate team members' perceptions and experiences with particular initiatives or projects, such as new processes, policies, or organizational changes. Identify strengths, areas for improvement, and potential barriers to successful implementation.
- Team collaboration and cohesion: measure the level of collaboration, teamwork, and cohesion that can be improved, address any conflicts or challenges, and foster a positive and inclusive team environment.
- Leadership effectiveness: gather feedback on leadership practices, communication, decision-making, and support that helps provides insights for leadership development and improvement.
Choose the pulse survey format
The experience your team members have during the survey is essential in ensuring their participation and providing accurate and meaningful feedback. A well-designed pulse survey should have focused, relevant questions and a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for respondents to provide input. By selecting the right platform, you can enhance the overall survey experience and maximize the effectiveness of your data collection efforts.
Criteria to consider when choosing a pulse survey platform:
- Customization options: Look for a platform that allows you to customize the survey to fit your specific needs. This includes adding your branding elements, tailoring the survey design, and customizing question types and response options.
- Ease of use: Choose an intuitive and user-friendly platform for both the survey creator and the respondents. The platform should have a simple and clear interface that makes creating, distributing, and analyzing the survey easy.
- Data analysis capabilities: Consider the data analysis features offered by the platform. Look for options that provide robust analytics and reporting tools, allowing you to gain valuable insights from the survey results.
Here are some popular survey platforms to consider:
- Notion: Collecting survey data in Notion is easy, especially with the many templates Notion offers before. Plus, the data then sits in one place where you can also plan your strategies and activities to answer the insights you collected.
- Pingboard: What's great about Pingboard for Pulse Surveys is that you can automate your surveys. As they say: "Never set reminders for yourself again. Focus your energy on analyzing employee feedback rather than the administrative side of building, deploying, reminding, and closing a survey. Playful nudges help drive participation so you don't have to!"
- Qualtrics: This platform provides robust features for customization, advanced analytics, and powerful reporting capabilities. However, it has a higher learning curve and pricing for advanced features.
- SurveyMonkey: It offers a user-friendly interface, extensive customization options, and advanced reporting and analysis features. However, some features require a paid subscription.
- Typeform: This platform provides an interactive and engaging survey design, an intuitive interface, and good customization options. Same with SurveyMonkey, some advanced features are only available with a paid subscription.
- Google Forms: Start with the most simple and familiar one that allows for quick and effortless survey creation, customization, and distribution. Google Forms also enable efficient data analysis and visualization to derive valuable insights from the pulse survey results.
- Microsoft Forms: It integrates well with Microsoft Office Suite, has an easy-to-use interface, and has straightforward functionality. However, it has limited advanced features and reporting capabilities could be improved.
Communicate about the survey
You know what? Your team is drowning in tasks and deadlines. They won't sit down empathetically decoding the hidden goodwill of an email urging them to do yet another thing. To ensure they catch the survey's essence and follow, get the message across and proactively remind them, like a friendly nudge with a dash of clarity. Here's where your patience and smart communication shine brightly!
Take a look at the following suggestions:
- Purpose and timeline: Clearly communicate the purpose of the survey to your team members. Explain why their honest feedback is valuable for them and will drive positive changes within the team. Additionally, provide a timeline indicating when the survey will be conducted, when it is due, and when the results will be shared.
- Anonymity and confidentiality: Except for the cool and outspoken teams, most employees will feel uncomfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. Assuring their anonymous and confidential responses will bring you more open and honest answers.
- Frequent reminders: Develop a communication plan to inform and remind your team members about the survey. To ensure the maximum number of participants, a sole announcement won't be enough. Follow up with timely reminders as the survey deadline approaches. A Slack message or a check-in from the boss will help a lot.
How to create pulse survey questions?
Be Clear and Specific
Vague questions only result in inaccurate or unreliable responses. As Annamarie Mann, Former Workplace Analytics Practice Manager at Gallup suggests: "Very easily, questions can become misleading, too general, double-barreled or simply confusing to the audience, which can result in responses that are uninterpretable or unreliable."
Instead of asking "Do you have the necessary information and resources to perform your job effectively?" ask "On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with being provided with necessary information and resources?" This question provides clear parameters for respondents to evaluate communication effectiveness.
Focus on One Aspect at a Time
Each question should address a topic or area of interest. Mixing multiple aspects in a question can lead to biased or unclear responses.
Avoid asking, "How satisfied are you with your salary, benefits, and job responsibilities?" break it down into separate questions like "To what extent does your current salary meet your expectations and reflect your contributions?" and "Rate your level of satisfaction with the hybrid allowance benefits provided by the company."
Use Rating Scales for Measurement
Rating on a scale of 1-5 allows for quantitative data analysis and comparisons across different responses. It provides a quantifiable measure of their agreement, satisfaction, or frequency.
Ask Open-Ended Questions for Qualitative Feedback
Besides rating scale questions, include open-ended questions to allow team members to provide detailed and nuanced feedback. Open-ended questions encourage respondents to share their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions in their own words. If your purpose is to gather employee opinions rather than examine the suitability of a method, you need this type of question.
Combine Quantitative and Qualitative Questions
To ensure a comprehensive understanding, combine both quantitative and qualitative questions. This will help you gather descriptive feedback and deeper insights into the reasons behind employees' quantitative ratings. For example, alongside a question that asks employees to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1-5, you can include a qualitative follow-up question such as: "Please provide specific examples or reasons why you chose the rating above. What are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the most about your job?"
Consider Both Positive and Negative Perspectives
Include questions that cover both positive and negative aspects to obtain a well-rounded view. This helps identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement. For example, regarding their work experience, besides "What are the most satisfying about their current role and working environment?", add one more sentence about one thing they want to improve or change.
Avoid Leading or Biased Questions
Frame questions in an unbiased manner to elicit genuine and fair responses. Avoid asking questions like "Don't you think our latest product is far superior to anything else on the market?", ask "How satisfied are you with our latest product on a scale of 1-5? What improvements would you suggest?"
Keep the questions neutral and objective to obtain reliable feedback.
Test for Clarity and Comprehensibility
Before launching the survey, pilot test the questions yourself to ensure that they are clear, understandable, and easy to answer. Put yourself in the employees' shoes. This helps identify any potential issues or confusion in the questions and allows for necessary adjustments before the survey is distributed to the entire team.
Example of Pulse Survey Questions
If you're unsure of what to focus on in your upcoming pulse survey, consider using the Gallup Q12 survey. This survey consists of 12 items that reflect employee needs in the workplace, allowing employees to voice their concerns and managers to prioritize addressing them.
Alternatively, you can use our Google Forms pulse survey template, which includes a variety of questions categorized by objectives to better fit your needs.
As mentioned by Gallup, it's important to remember that the survey is just the starting point and should be followed by further actions. The survey itself does not mark the end but rather initiates the process of improvement and growth within your team and organization.
What to do next after collecting pulse survey results?
After you've collected the pulse survey results, the next crucial step is to leverage those insights to drive improvements and take action. Gathering every feedback without making any changes renders the survey meaningless. Once you've collected the survey results, deep dive into the data to understand how your team members perceive their experience.
For quantitative data, compare the scores and metrics to identify areas with the lowest ratings. This allows you to focus on developing an action plan and setting clear goals for improvement in those areas.
Regarding qualitative data, gather the constructive feedback employees provide and map it to the corresponding areas in your action plan. This helps you strengthen your plan by incorporating specific suggestions and addressing employee concerns.
When it's time to put the action plan into action, it's important to consider the urgent issues. Some things need to be fixed right away, while others require more careful planning. So, find a balance between addressing significant problems quickly and taking enough time to plan things out properly. Share the survey results with your team and tell them when you'll implement the action plan. This way, everyone is on the same page, and their expectations are managed.
You might also want to consider doing follow-up surveys to see if the changes you made had the desired impact and gather more feedback to see how well the changes worked.
Addressing Survey Fatigue and Maximizing Participation
Survey fatigue can be a challenge when conducting pulse surveys. Your team may feel overwhelmed or disengaged if they are constantly bombarded with surveys. To escape the survey fatigue trap and maximize participation, consider the following tips:
- Ensure your pulse survey is easy to understand at first glance and takes less than 5 minutes to finish.
- Be critical of every survey sent out. What problems do you want to address? Is it really necessary right now? Make sure it has a purpose, and thus it is helpful to your employees.
- Try to avoid unnecessary or repetitive questions in a survey.
- Consider the frequency of conducting. If it's a follow-up survey, it should occur at least three months after the action to leave enough time for everything to change and make an impact.
- Choose an optimal time when your team is not overwhelmed and busy with their workload.
- Show your appreciation and recognition. It could be as simple as a thank-you note, recognition, or even small rewards.
- And most importantly, share the results. It's your commitment to make positive changes after feedback. When your team members see that their input has led to tangible improvements, they feel valued and motivated to participate in future surveys.
Listen to your team
If your last survey took place six months ago, it might no longer be helpful. The situation is different, and (maybe) your team is filled with new people. Take efficient pulse surveys to understand what is happening in your team, if the current policies or strategies still fit, and how to keep them more productive and engaged at work. Pulse survey is a great tool to manage your team better if you know how to do it right.